Trying to keep my mind off of the nightmares of the previous night, I decided to go next door and visit Thuvien at the very deep basement of the Illuminated Order.

"I have a mission for you," he said, "and there is a danger that you might not return from it." He stared at me intently, adding "If you choose not to accept it, it will be understandable, since a number of our own dare not try it."

"What is this mission?" I asked. I had dangerous missions before, and doubted this would be any more dangerous than dealing with a dragon or two.

"I need you go travel to Scourge Barrow.  It was known as the lair of Mannimarco, the King of Worms. It collapsed during the battles fought during the Second numidium, thus keeping it's secrets. However, we have a way to uncover, and yes, even recover those secrets."

"How do you propose to do this?" I asked.

Collecting his thoughts for a moment, Thuvien replied, "We have found the corpse of one of the King of Worms' agents, upon which was found a teleportation amulet. Now, this King gave these amulets to his servants. They allow instantaneous travel to Scourage Barrow, which is located all the way back in the province of Daggerfall. We have altered the enchantment a bit, which will allow teleport back to this location."

"So, what is so dangerous about this mission?" I asked. "Monsters? Demons?"

"That is a possibility." he replied. "You see, Mannimarco was the greatest necromancer ever to live. He disappeared at the time of the Second Numidium. It is said that he sought to become a god, and it's even possible he succeded." He paused for a moment, then added "The danger is not from any creatures, arcane or not, but from the fact that the barrow collapsed. It is very possible that the entire area is filled with rock, in which case, teleporting into it will lively prove instantly fatal."

Suddenly, I wished it HAD been something like a monster that was the primary danger.

"If you chose to go, know that the risk is great, but that the potential rewards are with it. Return when you have found something of use - preferably something dead."

I took the amulet and looked at it. Pretty standard piece, simply activate it ........ oops!   


I was SO glad I had my ring of weapons with me. Without thinking, I accidently activated the amulet, and found myself teleported many days journey to Daggerfall in an instant. This was a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that the amulet worked, and that even though there was a good deal of rock and debris nearby, as luck would have it, there was none on the spot where I materialized.

The bad news was that it was pitch black, and that I could hear something coming at me in the dark.

The ring of weapons gave me a chest plate, broadsword and shield, along with a little bit of a night-eye spell, letting me see better in the dark. It was just enough to see something dark and nasty reach out and attack. The broadsword made quick work of it, as well as the second and third creature that followed it.   


Once things were quiet as a tomb again, I used a spell of night-eye to brighten the room a bit. I could see it was a lesser bonewalker that was one of the creatures that attacked me.

The room was empty, except for a huge throne, dusty, and unused for hundreds of years.

Well, he did say to find something of use, so I checked around the room. Several of the dead creatures refused to decay, so I did manage to obtain some alchemy ingredients, but wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for as far as a "great secret" was concerned.   


Finally, under a heap of rubble, a dead human body was found, along with something of interest.

It held an enchanted staff and a note. As a mage, I detected not an evil aura, but simply a deadly one coming from the staff, for while it apparently held power, it drew that power from something or someone close by, most likely the holder.

The note was even more interesting.  It apparently called this dead creature a messenger zombie, which was supposed to wait here in this barrow for a number of days immediately after the second coming of Numidium (I'd have to do some research on that item to find out what it was referring to). The zombie was supposed to give the staff to someone as a reward. There was definitely a warning about the staff having considerable enchantment, but at considerable cost.

There were a few other things that might be of use to the order, so I took them and used the amulet again, this time to return to the underground mannor.   


Thuvien was very happy to see me return, alive and well, along with several artifacts that he, and the order, could use.

He was also very impressed with the staff, and suggested that I keep it for my own use.

"Before you run off," he said, "I have just one last mission for you." He rummaged through some old bottles, finding just the right one, and handing it to me.

It was a bottle of blood! I looked at him, and he smiled and said "Take this flask of Aundae vampire blood to another member of our order, Decius Mus, located in Molag Mar. In the lower waistworks there, look for a fresco. Approach the fresco while carying the scroll I will give you, and you'll be able to enter the guildhouse there. Decius will take over your instruction as of now, and I'm sure he'll keep you busy.    


Thuvien gave me a scroll and the flask and sent me on my way. Laurenna was out shopping, so I was alone for a few minutes, and decided to see what this staff was all about.

It gave me increased strength, among other things, but I could feel my life slipping away, slowly but surely. The staff was drawing it's energy from my own life force. I knew that if I held on to it for too long, I would die!

A powerful weapon, to be sure, but definitely at a cost. 



Laurenna and I made our way to Molag Mar by way of the trusty stilt strider.

"Another one of your secret missions, I suppose." she said. "You certainly end up in some odd places."

"Yes," I replied, "and lots of them not so pretty. Still, one does what one must."

We checked in to the Pilgrim's Rest in the canton, and enjoyed some music, tasty ash yams, and roasted nix-hound meat.    


I decided to meet this new guild guide for the Illuminated Order, so after dinner, I advised Laurenna I had some business to attend to, and I would re-join her later.

I headed down to the lower section of the canton, and there, just as promised, was a fresco of Saint Velothi, leading his faithful people out of Summerset Isle into the province of Morrowind, so many hundreds of years ago. I was partly amused that no one here seemed to know that this was also a doorway to a hidden room.   


Holding the scroll I had been given by Thuvien, the panel opened inward silently. As I stepped inside, it swung closed behind me, latching quietly, leaving no trace of the fact that it had every been anything but a fresco.

The hallway was short, with very red lighting, washing out all other color. At least it wasn't dark, like the last place was.

At the end of the short hallway was another door, which opened easily, giving way to a small room, and my next teacher of the Illuminated Order.   


I found the occupant of the room waiting for me. He was a vampire, by the look of him. Having been a vampire myself for a while, I found it easy to tell these things.

"Ah, Eldorf, good to see you." he said, bowing politely, in a most gentlemanly way. "I am Dectus Mus, vampire, and I am a very long-established member of the order. I will be your guide for a while, and will have some very important tasks for you to perform."

Glancing at the flask in my hand, he added "I believe that is for me."

I gave him the flask. He opened it quickly, and drained it dry within seconds. He closed his glowing eyes for a moment, then looking at me, he quipped, "You know, it's hard to find good blood these days."

"You do not hunt for your food?" I asked. "No, I am too pre-occupied with my studies here, and I am too civilized to kill for my meals." he replied.

'A civilized vampire', I thought to myself, 'That's something you don't see every day.'   


"What sort of things do you do here?" I asked.

"Well, I study many things," he replied, "but mostly, I study vampires, and vampire-hunters. It is amusing, don't you think, that I am here, just below the headquarters of the temple's squadron of vampire hunters?" I had to laugh with him; it was humerous that the most top-notch vampire hunters of Vvardenfell are headquartered here in Molag Mar, and they never knew there was one right under their feet.

"Listen, Eldorf, I have a task for you to perform. I apologize if it's not very dangerous and all that, but there is a vampire hunter that I have been keeping tabs on, and I'd like his notes on what he knows about us."

"I'm not going to have to kill him, am I?" I asked.

"Oh, nothing of the sort." he said. He's located in Ald'ruhn, and is staying at the Ald Skar Inn. His name is Ano Vando. I need the notes on 'A New Vampire Threat' that he's writing up. Now, he's going to be in the only room with a privacy door, so you'll have to check and make sure he's not there. The notes may be well hidden, so you'll have to search around a bit for them. Once you find them, bring them here to me."

As I turned to leave, he quipped, "Care for a bottle for old-time's sake?", referring to my time as a vampire. Obviously, this vampire still had a good sense of humor. "No?" he replied, looking at the painful look on my face, adding "Well, more for me, then. Off you go. Oh, and don't get caught!!!"

I returned to Laurenna, who was busy singing a bar tune with several of the pilgrims there. I had a few flasks of brandy, noting that they tasted much better than a flask of blood ever will.   


We got up at the break of dawn, and after a quick meal, we headed to the stilt strider for our trip to Ald'ruhn.

As we headed up the hill to the huge beast, an ash storm changed the peaceful scene to a blood-red sky and blinding ash and dust.   


It took us the better part of the day to get to Ald'ruhn, and it was already getting dark by the time we got there.

The only good thing was that even though this area was also subject to blight and ash storms, the weather was calm and quiet.

We made our way to the Ald Skar Inn, and found Ano Vando's room. Using the Amulet of Shadows, I became nearly invisible, then quietly opened the door while Laurenna stood guard for me.

Once inside the room, since Mr. Vando was not there, I let the spell expire and searched around the room for his notes. I was about to give up, when I finally found them under his pillow.  


Another long journey back to Molag Mar, and the notes were handed to Dectus Mus. He read them quickly, looking very amused, as if he were reading the notes of a rank amature.

"Oh, Eldorf, you must read this, it is too much." he chuckled, as he handed me the book.

There were notes about how much sunlight it took to kill a vampire on a sunny day, cloudy day, in a dust storm, and so on. There was mention of dust storms just before dawn and during the evening hours that were so intense, that a vampire could easly be out during the day and still not fear being killed by the sun. He even went on to say there was the possibility of a direct connection between the storms from Red Mountain and vampire activity, aiding their feeding habits on purpose. He also said that if the storms keep up with their current level of activity, vampires could eventually dominate the entire island of Vvardenfell.

He also stated that he learned that both the Aundae and Berne vampire clans are using non-vampires as agents, recruiting people who supply them with slaves, most likely as a food source, as well as a supply of new recruits.

The notes concluded that there might be an aliance between these clans and Dagoth Ur. I found that last part most interesting, as it probably had something to do with my work for the spymaster.

Dectus said that I should return shortly, as he wanted to study the notes in more detail.

I met Laurenna again in the Pilgrim's Rest, and headed back to the stilt strider for the long ride home to Balmora.  


It was late again when we returned home. Laurenna waited for me to unlock the door.

As I worked the lock, I noted something odd - scratches on the door and lock panel. The door was still locked, but someone had been trying to get in. Probably a member of the Thieves Guild doing a quest or something like that. It was pretty clear that they we not successful, so I didn't mention what I saw to Laurenna; I didn't want her to worry about it.

I decided to check into it later when I had more time. Still, with my work for the spymaster and all, coupled with the strange dreams we'd been having, I found it disturbing that someone had been tyring to sneak in to our home.